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Is Your New Purse Made of Dog Food?

Is Your New Purse Made of Dog Food?

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So you just bought a new leather purse, belt, or maybe a wallet and it looks great! It feels nice and even smells like leather, so you know it must be real. It even has a stamp on the inside saying “Genuine Leather.” What does that actually mean though, and why was it a quarter of the price of some of the big designer brands? Let’s talk about some different types of leather and why your “Genuine Leather” might not be what you think it is.

1. The Fake Stuff

Let’s start by going through some different varieties of leather. The first type of leather and one of the most common, is Vinyl, or Faux Leather. As the name suggests this is not actually leather. These are made of plastic that is then dyed, textured, and treated to give a leather-like appearance. This type of leather is often the cheapest and most accessible.

2. Still Pretty Fake

The second is bonded leather. Although it is referred to as leather, it is questionable at best. The process of making bonded leather uses lots of pieces of scrap leather and some of the same plastics from our Faux Leather. It is ground up and mixed with these plastics to create a very affordable alternative to traditional leather. In the end, bonded leather is made of only about 20% of actual leather. This type of leather also has a notorious flaw in that over time it begins to flake. You’ve probably seen this before on an old office chair, a Bible, or even a purse. Think of bonded leather as the plywood of leather. It has a purpose and can be affordable, but I wouldn’t want to build an entire house out of it.

3. The Dog Food

Next up is Genuine Leather and you might be telling yourself, “This one’s easy! It says genuine so it must be real.” In a sense you're right, but maybe not as much as you would hope. Let’s look at how genuine leather is made. Obviously leather comes from animals, quite often cows. Cattle are a great example because they have very tough skin, which is way thicker than the new purse you just bought. During the process of collecting animal hides, the skin is actually cut into smaller layers to achieve a desired thickness. Some of the sections on the flesh side of the skin are also tanned and processed into leather. This is where “Genuine Leather” comes from. It is still leather, but it isn’t the nice surface layers that you are led to believe. This kind of leather is what I like to think of as “dog food” leather. Technically dog food can still be made out of meat, but it’s not the parts that I would want on my dinner plate.

4. A Nice Filet

So if genuine leather doesn’t make the cut, then what should I be looking for? The answer to that comes with options. The next variant of leather for us to explore is called Top Grain Leather. This leather uses the outer layers of the hide, but before sending it off to be tanned, just the top layer is removed. It is fairly common for cows and other animals to have small defects, birthmarks, and scars on their skin. By taking off the top layer you are left with a much more uniform hide. This can be a very desirable characteristic for a piece of leather, especially in a commercial environment. Blemishes and scars on the outside of a bag are not appealing to every customer. This is why top grain leather is one of the nicest options of leather available.

5. A Juicy Ribeye

The second choice and by far my own personal favorite is known as full grain leather. It is not uncommon to see this proudly displayed on various leather sites. Full grain leather is made in much the same way as top grain leather. The major difference is that instead of removing all of those service scars and imperfections, you leave them there. This adds a richness and character to a piece. It’s a reminder that this bag or wallet actually came from somewhere. The blemishes can change the way that dye soaks in, or how the overall texture of a finished bag feels. It guarantees that even if someone else buys the exact same bag in the same color, from the same place, that it will still be slightly different. This creates a uniqueness that can't be matched by the dog food leather bag from your local department store.

Wrapping Up

In the end it comes down to a matter of taste. Do you go for a top grain leather bag (the filet mignon), or the full grain (a nice juicy ribeye)? Personally I’ve always been a ribeye kind of guy, but there is a place for every kind of leather out there. At least you know what to look for the next time you pick up that genuine leather bag.

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